Jacoby: Harbaugh given another chance – like it or not, it’s the right call

Let’s keep this short and sweet – much like Jim Harbaugh’s time at Michigan. Well, it’s been short by some standards. Sweet, might be a reach – without even trying for a rhyme.

But what doesn’t rhyme or jive or connect or make any sense are the results. Harbaugh was brought to Ann Arbor after turning around a dismal program (Stanford) and taking another (49ers) to a freakin’ Super Bowl. Michigan fans were giddy with excitement and they couldn’t wait to line up against the Buckeyes, Spartans and everyone else on the schedule. Bring it on.

It went from giddy to guided to gruesome in a hurry.

Harbaugh signed a four-year extension with the Wolverines late last week and the reaction from fans were mixed. Well, mixed up. Michigan’s true “Michigan man” is about as welcome as that crazy uncle on Thanksgiving. There is a chair in the garage and don’t take any of the legs.

The comments from social media were brutal. And if you rolled down the window you could hear the laughing all the way from Columbus to South Bend to Madison to Lansing – that’s a big circle of laughter.

One comment read: “Just stop watching and supporting them. Don’t donate any money. Don’t buy any tickets (in the future) and completely ignore them. It is the only thing that they understand.”

Photo courtesy U-M Athletics

Ignore Michigan football? These aren’t the Detroit Lions.

This comment was more rational: “This is absurd. A contract extension for being embarrassed yearly by Ohio State and getting thumped in our bowl games? Welcome to the new standard of mediocrity.”

But does the reaction justify the results? Well, yes if we are being honest. And this poster on social media seemed to agree, saying, “The TEAM results DO NOT warrant this renewal.”

There are numbers to be proud of for sure.

Harbaugh, 57, has guided the Wolverines to a 49-22 overall record and 34-16 Big Ten record during his six seasons leading the Michigan football program. He has led U-M to three 10-win seasons and has guided teams to five bowl games, including two New Year’s Six Bowls and three New Year’s Day bowl games. Also, eight Wolverines have secured 12 All-America honors under Harbaugh, including consensus honorees Devin Bush, Jake Butt, Maurice Hurst, Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers.

But there also are other numbers that aren’t going to make it onto a U-M press release. Michigan is a dismal 0-5 against Ohio State, have yet to win a Big Ten title and Harbaugh is a disappointing 11-10 in his last 21 games, including a 2-4 finish this season. And they lost to INDIANA!

“There is work to be done and challenges to be addressed,” Harbaugh said in a statement released Friday. “These challenges are being addressed as we continue to strive for excellence in the classroom and championships on the field, a message that I hope is noted in the language of our agreed-upon contract.”

This contract extension puts all the pressure on Harbaugh to complete that work and meet those challenges. His base salary is almost half of the previous deal and the buyout clause isn’t the ghastly $10 million it was before the extension. It does include some performance bonuses so if he does turn things around, his status and bank account will both increase.

And changes have already begun. Getting rid of Defensive Coordinator Don Brown was a good start – good guy, but it clearly wasn’t working here. Hiring Baltimore Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald to be at least part of the new defensive coaching staff appears to be a solid move.

While this was a four-year extension for Coach Harbaugh, it’s pretty clear this was a “last chance” deal for Michigan’s former quarterback and legend who bleeds blue. And that “last chance” might be closer to one season than four seasons.

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